Friday, May 12, 2017

City Council Timeline: Monday, May 8, 2017

A range of topics and a very chatty group of council members, made for a City Council meeting on Monday evening that lasted about three times longer than many of the most recent gatherings held at the City Hall chambers.

With council members weighing in on themes of the city's financial statements, environmental targets, a northwest approach to worker recruitment and a Seniors housing proposal dominating much of the time.

Other topics that received some attention on the night included a look a variance request and some support in a quest for some funding for the annual Seafest celebrations also made for some of the evenings work.

Council members also brought a few final items up for a short overview prior to the conclusion of the nights proceedings.

For some background on the items of note on the evening, the Agenda for the Regular Council session for May 8 can be reviewed here.

Prior to the 7 PM meeting, Council also had a Closed Session Scheduled for earlier in the day, the notice to close it to the public can be examined here.

Further information from our overview and placement in the video archive can be found below, with the permanent record of the minutes added as they are posted to the city website.

In attendance May 8, 2017

Mayor Lee Brain-- Present 
Councillor Barry Cunningham-- Present  
Councillor Blair Mirau -- Present
Councillor Wade Niesh -- Present
Councillor Nelson Kinney --  Present 
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa--  Present 
Councillor Joy Thorkelson -- Present 

Video Archive for May 8, 2017

(0:00 -- 2:00) Regular Council Session -- The Mayor reviewed the list of minutes and agenda items to be noted by Council members, with Council then approving the Agenda while the past minutes of previous council meetings were adopted.

( 2:00 -- 19:00 ) Report from the City's Financial Officer, regarding the 2016 Audited Financial Statements with Steve Kietzmann, Accountant Carlyle Shepherd and Company  -- Mr. Kietzmann a representative from the financial auditors that review the city's financial information offered up a short overview as to the work involved for the firm in reviewing the City's financial reports and procedures.

From their review of the financial statements, Mr. Kietzmann observed that they have completed their work and that they believe that the financial statements are materially correct and once City Council has formally approved and adopted the statements, the accounting firm will express their unqualified audit opinion on the city's financials

He observed that there is a lot happening with the City of Prince Rupert financial statements and made note of some of the issues related to the statements, marking Watson Island and items related to the city's landfill requirements as areas where they have given some consideration towards.

He reviewed how the accountants had held some in depth discussions with the city's management representatives on those issues, so as to obtain a better understanding of exactly where the city is at before they were able to offer their opinion on the financial statements.

Following his tutorial on financial oversight and the purpose of an independent auditor, Council members asked a range of questions related to areas of note from the City's Financial report.

Among some of the initial inquiries from Councillors Randhawa and Thorkelson were questions and statements related to areas of the process used to review the financials and deliver the report to Council.

Councillor Mirau had questions related to the swing between the unappropriated and appropriated operating surplus, the City's Financial officer addressed that issue noting that some of the surplus had been moved into separate funds from last year to this year, because of the budget a portion of the surplus will be spent in 2017 and a portion of the unappropriated surplus has been allocated towards the appropriated surplus going forward.

Councillor Cunningham requested that staff provide a breakdown on the nature of contractor work that the city has paid out money towards over the last year. The main theme of his questioning was to determine if those levels of contractor work were related to above and beyond the normal work load, or whether it was contract work done that should have been done by the city's workforce.

Ms. Bomben advised that the work was more directed towards the larger scale projects underway that city staff to not undertake.

Councillor Thorkelson called attention to an element of the financial statements related to the loan to the Prince Rupert Airport Authority and tied those figures to the City's recent decision change the nature of the make up of the Board of the Airport.

She made note of a recent letter by the Mayor to the local paper, and from that theme Ms. Thorkelson observed that the total loans to the airport that the city is holding is 7.7 million dollars. She reviewed some of the approach that the city had taken in securing those loans and offered up that the financial interest that the city has in the airport is why the city would want to have more, or greater control over the airport authority as it is the taxpayer that has to pay the loan back, not the Airport Board.

On the theme of the Airport loans, the auditor noted that the city has taken the necessary steps to protect its interests when it comes to outstanding mortgages on the airport property and to secure those loans.

Council then voted to accept the financial statements.

The Mayor closed off the conversation by noting that the audit process is designed to provide for any red flags and he was pleased to see that the city is looking in good shape. He further praised the work of the financial department and the team there for their work and took a moment to highlight how he believes the city is doing an exemplary job of handling the city's financial affairs.

(19:00 -- 21:00 ) Report from the Community Planner related to an Application for Development Variance Permit --  A short overview of the work to take place for the residence associated with the Variance Permit was provided for council. Following the report Council then voted to send the permit on to Final Consideration.

( 21:00 -- 1:00:00) Report from the Manager of Community Development related to the 2017 Update to the City of Prince Rupert Community Energy and Emissions Plan. -- Hans Seidemann, the City's Manager of Community Development explored a number of themes related to the city's ambitions to address environmental issues related to Green House Gases.

He observed that the update was offering a five year phased approach to try and meet the city's green house gas targets as developed through the City's Official Community Plan, though he noted that some of those targets from the past had not yet been met owing to a number of factors including lack of third party support, reduced opportunity to take part in incentive programs and a lack of energy efficiency advisers in the region.

As for the update to the plan, the main reason given was to expand on the experience that they have gained over the last ten years and to take a review of how other communities have approached the process of reducing emission. The new update will offer the city an opportunity to establish priorities for staff and to seek out new ways of reducing costs  on energy use and assist in the goal of meeting their targets.

Also offered as part of the overview was a look at the process that the city engaged in as part of their development of the plan, which included a two day workshop that helped to deliver the updated plan.

From that session, Mr. Seidemann highlighted the findings from the Five year Action plan moving forward, prioritizing the areas where the city believes they can reach their goals at the moment, along with the longer range areas to reduce the city's energy profile if opportunity presents itself.

As part of his presentation he pointed towards some of the elements of the City's Hays 2.0 plan and the Redesign Rupert initiative as to where some of the themes have been explored further.

He noted that Council had the full overview of the Update plans as part of the evening's Agenda package ( available here, page 63 from the documents for May 8th)

Council members offered up a number of questions and observations, with Councillor Thorkelson leading off the discussion recounting some of the history of how the City has approached the issue and some of the challenges that they faced in the past in achieving their targets. She offered to provide her documentation from that period to Mr. Seidemaan for his further review.

She also offered up her own review of some of the issues that the city faces, taking note of the increase of green house gas emissions owing to the volume of trucks that roll through the city to the container port. She also reviewed the possibility of some kind of idling bylaw to reduce emissions, the creation of an official bike route for the city and bike lanes through the city on towards some of the areas where residents can lend a hand in helping the city to reduce its energy consumption.

Councillor Mirau addressed some themes related to the concept of Councillor Thorkelson's notes on a district energy system tied into the recreation centre and inquired as to the nature of available grants and how the city could approach accessing them.

Mr. Seidemaan provided a short synopsis of some of the grant opportunities that may be available and what areas the city may consider putting its focus towards, though noting that some of the large scale initiatives do come with a significant cost requirement.

Councillor Cunningham inquired as to what possibilities the city might explore when it comes to creating energy generation options from the city's water supply area and the dam at Shawatlans Lake. As well as to seek out some feedback on whether the city should consider an incinerator project for the city landfill site.

For the power generating theme from the water supply, Mr. Seidemann noted that the city was limited by the protections in place by the province for the Shawatlans area, he then offered up bit of a primer for Council on the range of landfill issues and how the city could approach them, noting however that some of those initiatives come with a high cost.

Councillor Kinney made inquiries as to whether any progress has been made on the prospect of wind farms in the community, he was advised that the current process by a private company for development of a wind farm for Mount Hays and Mount Oldfield is still in the application phase. Mr. Seidemann added that the City is currently engaged in the working group aspect of that proposed development.

Councillor Randhawa observed about some of the past incentives that were once available from BC Hydro for residents to take advantage of and suggested that the City should write a letter to them to suggest that they bring some of those initiatives back.

Mayor Brain took the opportunity to review some of his recent moves related to the 2030 Sustainable City initiative, which he noted was part of the pillar to his Hays 2.0 plan.

From those notes he outlined how from his Mayor's Select Standing Committee that he had struck a small group which included himself, Ken Shaw from the college and Samantha Wagner from Kitkatla environmental, they have created a small policy booklet similar to the planning for Major projects initiative.

Their draft policies will be brought to Council shortly for a daylong workshop session with Council members, where they will explore such areas as renewable energy, transportation and local food production. He observed that it would offer Council the chance to discuss the issues in a more thorough fashion.

From that he would then like to bring it to Council to be adopted as a draft and then take it to the public for larger discussion with the community over the course of the next year to allow for their feedback on what is possible and what is within the city's financial ability.

Once that public engagement is complete Council would bring the document back for final consideration.

He also noted that he will be out of town as part of his duties with the UBCM climate leadership council, a group he joined in September, with the next session of that group taking place in Mid May where he will attend the renewable cities conference.

Councillor Thorkelson added one final item on the topic, requesting that staff compile a report for Council to highlight the progress the city is making towards its greenhouse gas issues.

Following the wide ranging discussion and with the Mayor noting that it had been a very good discussion Council voted to approve the Update to the plan and move forward with some of the themes that they had discussed on the evening.

(1:00:00 -- 1:17:30 ) Report on the Northwest Regional Workforce Attraction Initiative -- The City's Financial Officer Corinne Bomben provided some background on what the project was about and the request that the City of Prince Rupert join with a number of other communities to collaborate on the campaign to attract workers to the Northwest.

The project which is led by the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine would look toward existing and future collaborations to attract and retain workers to the region, seeking to highlight the unique differences that each community has to offer. Among some of the initiatives would be a video to showcase the communities across the Northwest as well as some website items to be placed on civic websites.

The majority of the discussion on theme revolved over whether the city would be committed to any large costs related to the duration to the program, what kind of workers that the program is designed to attract and if the City wished to be involved in a process that recruits workers for other communities.

Councillor Thorkelson noted that the approach the city should be considering is to ensure that those industries setting up in the community are dedicated towards training local workers for any jobs that may come up.

Councillor Mirau offered his thoughts on the issue, taking some feedback from the recent business walk and the desire of local companies to find staff for positions that they can't fill locally and how the City needs to take a leadership role in attracting skilled labour in the community. He suggested that the concept as outlined does seem to fit that goal.

Councillor Randhawa looked to add to the motion, seeking expanded funding to train local residents for job opportunities before they worked towards bringing workers to other communities.

Councillor Cunningham's offered up that he thought it was a good idea as long as Prince Rupert got equal representation to the other communities that would be part of the project to showcase what the city has to offer.

Councillor Niesh noted that he had no opposition to the project and how the proposal which he called a great idea might help to spread word of the region and help to attract people back to the community.

The Mayor observed as to how he agreed to some of what Councillor Randhawa had to say in that the city wants local people to be trained and how the initiative is just a regional approach. He called attention to how the container terminal just recently had hired on a number of workers in the community, with a number of smaller businesses now having to find new workers as those employees moved to the higher paying port jobs. He suggested that the project may help to bring people to the area, he also made mention as to a number of training programs available through both the college and local First Nations opportunities.

Councillor Thorkelson returned to her concerns over the nature of the local work force and how if the approach is to try and stop the concept of fly in and fly out workers for industrial projects it isn't going to work. Her main theme was to highlight that there is the potential that the program might deliver a number of workers who would come to Prince Rupert looking for work on spec and expect that there would be housing and jobs available, something which she noted that they had discussed in the past.

The Mayor noted that the program at the moment doesn't specify what kind of workers that the initiative would be designed for, suggesting that they are perhaps still trying to work out those details.

Councillor Niesh returned to his theme of the need to attract people to the community and that the program being discussed is what the community needs, noting that there is a need to start to bring the city back from the depressed condition it has been in over the last ten to fifteen years.

Councillor Cunningham inquired as to the cost parameters and the timeline of the project and if the city would be required to contribute any money should the grant opportunities not become available.

The Mayor observed that he didn't believe that the city would be kicking any money in, adding that he wasn't sure why the proposal seemed to be making for an issue.

Ms. Bomben offered up that the worst case scenario was that the project would cost 5,000 dollars in total.

Council then voted to approve the motion.

 ( 1:17:30-1:18:00 ) Correspondences for Action 

Council reviewed a request of support to seek a grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust to access funding for up to 2,500 dollars for the Seafest Community Festival. Council voted to approve the request to lend its support to the initiative to seek out the grant funding.


1:18:00 -- 1:33:30 Report from the City planner on the proposal to convert the Neptune Motel on Chamberlain Avenue into the Hill Top Lodge -- Housing for Seniors. -- Mr. Krekic offered up some background on the proposed development and explored the steps taken to this point by the proponent to move their project forward.

Among his topics were a review of what the proponents Macro Properties have in mind for the development as well as the findings from the April 5th public engagement meeting hosted by the proponents, a session which he observed did not see a strong turn out from the community.

Some of the concerns that the city planner took note of included the location of the project in a light industrial area of the city and the limitations related to access for public transportation in the area.

On the transportation issues a number of options, he did note that the proponent had outlined some options that were currently under study to provide for those that may take up residence in the housing units.

The Mayor led off the discussion on the topic, first countering the observation from Mr. Krekic about the attendance at the public information session, stating that he thought it had been well attended, though he noted that the one group that was under represented was those of the target group of seniors.

He observed that one of the questions he heard is why do they want to build it there, and he noted that they own the building and rather than have it sit vacant, Macro has put forward this proposal for the development of the building in that location.

Councillor Kinney outlined some of the themes from some of the seniors that he has spoken with and observed that this development is the kind of thing that the community needs at the moment and no one should be arguing about it.

Councillor Niesh noted that he finds it a case of a repurposing of an existing building and has served as a place of accommodation in the past, though noting that it is in an industrial area and those that live there will have to accept the atmosphere of the site.

Councillor Mirau reviewed the issue of transportation noting that he didn't have many concerns over that aspect of the proposal, but did note that the land use issues do offer up some topics for future discussion to avoid conflicts in the future.

Mr. Krekic outlined that the owners understand the nature of the environment that their units would be located in and added that their options for the future would not be that of a revolving door. He observed that the city is limited in its land use options, like many small communities and that they just have to make the best of what they have.

Councillor Thorkelson explored some of the issues regarding covenants related to the property in question.

Councillor Cunningham echoed many of the thought from Councillor Niesh about the project, offering up his praise for Macro for how they planned to repurpose the building to addresses a housing issue in the community. Adding that it is a great idea and a fill in for that housing need, much like the Metlakatla housing proposal currently under study.

As a closing comment related to the application, Councillor Thorkelson noted that Council should remember that Macro Properties had evicted all of those people prior to the renovations, adding that maybe they may be able to return to the housing units as many of them were over fifty. She wrapped up her thoughts on the topic by noting that the building had already been occupied by people who didn't have a lot of money before.

Council voted then to approve the motion to send it to the Public hearing process.

 ( 1:33:00  -- 1:44:00 ) Reports, Questions and Inquires from Council

Council Mirau introduced a motion of notice for the next Council session, noting that he wished to discuss the nature of the city's in camera meeting process, observing that people have had questions about them. By way of sympathy with the dilemma council faces, he offered up some of the unique circumstances that the City has considered of late, from Watson Island and those of negotiations with Major Project proponents as areas that they have held closed meetings on in the past. He outlined that his notice would see Council discuss a range of bullet points on best practices related to the closed meeting process and how they should approach the topic in a pro active manner.

Councillor Cunningham made note of the current paving project underway and observed that he would hate to see the new paving surface suffer too much in the way of traffic related to port transit. From that observation, he inquired as to the status of the Wantage Road bypass plans that would re route the traffic away from the downtown area.

Mayor Brain provided an update on how the city is approaching that issue, noting that the City has an application in related to it and have made it part of the larger road network project that the city is looking to create a road network to link Metlakatla and Lax Kw'alaams with the airport. He indicated to Council that the PRACA process, which those plans are under could be two to five years away from any progress.

As for the ultimate issue of Wantage Road, the Mayor observed that there are a variety of options to review to divert traffic from downtown and how the issue of highway responsibility may be part of those discussions.  He noted that some of the options under review include whether the City could acquire Second Avenue as its own, should Wantage Road be eventually re-designated as Highway 16.

Councillor Cunningham reinforced his concerns over the increased amount of traffic that will be taking to the roads as the port expands and that he has safety concerns that the city should be pushing to address before somebody gets hurt.

Next on his list of topics was a  follow inquiry as to the status of the City's Community Achievement Awards and if the process was on target for this years Canada Day celebrations at Mariner's Park.

Mr. Cunningham's final questions were related to the topic of handicapped parking at Rushbrook Floast and his ongoing concerns related to the unsightly premises and buildings in the downtown area,.

He recounted for Council that the City Manager had provided him with a bylaw that has some teeth in it and how he would to see the city start to use those teeth to take action on the unsightly buildings issues.

Ms. Bomben noted that when it comes to the handicapped parking issue those spots will be provided when the paving takes place.

Councillor Kinney inquired when the community clean up is scheduled to take place, Mr. Long advised that the prospect of that initiative would be a costly one and advised that he will have a report on that topic in the future, as well as one that addresses the number of derelict cars in the community.

Ms. Bomben took advantage of the topic of the clean up to make note of the coupon for free tipping up to a certain weight for the city landfill site. On that theme, Councillor Thorkelson made note that not everyone makes use of the phone book or land lines anymore and suggested that the city should provide some other opportunities for residents to gain access to those tipping tokens.

Ms. Bomben offered up that it was an issue that the City would have to address.

Councillor Niesh provided some final thoughts on the theme of the bypass road, making note that there is some form of plan at the Port to create a road to Ridley Island from the port in the next year or two and that may alleviate some of the traffic concerns in the community. Though he did make note that the road is Highway 16 and like any other town in Northern BC, the highway does travel through the city.

Councillor Cunningham had some thoughts on Mr. Niesh's thoughts, offering up the observation that unlike Prince Rupert, the Highway doesn't travel through much of the downtown areas in such communities as Terrace and Smithers.

The Mayor further expanded on his thoughts on Wantage Road, highlighting how expansion of that road as an access route would open up the land along the route, providing for other development options for the city in the future.

And with those contributions complete, the evening's session came to a close.

You can access the City Council Review for May 8 here, where a number of items regarding the council session, including links to local media coverage, if any, can be found.

As always, our Council Timeline is only a reflection of our observations from the Council session of the night. Be sure to consult with the official minutes from the City, when posted to their website for further review.

In addition to the city's official minutes, the City's Video archive provides a helpful record of the events from each public council session.

Official Minutes of the Regular Council Session from May 8, 2017 (not available yet)

The next regularly scheduled Council session,  takes place on Tuesday, May 23. That session is one that has been moved up on the calendar from its originally scheduled date of May 29.

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